Modelling the impact of Omicron and emerging variants on SARS-CoV-2 transmission and public health burden

Le Rütte, E. A. and Shattock, A. J. and Chitnis, N. and Kelly, S. L. and Penny, M. A.. (2022) Modelling the impact of Omicron and emerging variants on SARS-CoV-2 transmission and public health burden. Commun Med (Lond), 2. p. 93.

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Background: SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern, such as Omicron (B.1.1.529), continue to emerge. Assessing the impact of their potential viral properties on the probability of future transmission dominance and public health burden is fundamental in guiding ongoing COVID-19 control strategies. Methods: With an individual-based transmission model, OpenCOVID, we simulated three viral properties; infectivity, severity, and immune-evading ability, all relative to the Delta variant, to identify thresholds for Omicron's or any emerging VOC's potential future dominance, impact on public health, and risk to health systems. We further identify for which combinations of viral properties current interventions would be sufficient to control transmission. Results: We show that, with first-generation SARS-CoV-2 vaccines and limited physical distancing in place, a VOC's potential future dominance is primarily driven by its infectivity, which does not always lead to an increased public health burden. However, we also show that highly immune-evading variants that become dominant, even in the case of reduced variant severity, would likely require alternative measures to avoid strain on health systems, such as strengthened physical distancing measures, novel treatments, and second-generation vaccines. Expanded vaccination, that includes a booster dose for adults and child vaccination strategies, is projected to have the biggest public health benefit for a highly infective, highly severe VOC with low immune-evading capacity. Conclusions: These findings provide quantitative guidance to decision-makers at a critical time while Omicron's properties are being assessed and preparedness for emerging VOCs is eminent. We emphasise the importance of both genomic and population epidemiological surveillance.
Faculties and Departments:09 Associated Institutions > Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute (Swiss TPH)
UniBasel Contributors:Le Rütte, Epke and Shattock, Andrew James and Chitnis, Nakul and Kelly, Sherrie and Penny, Melissa
Item Type:Article, refereed
Article Subtype:Research Article
ISSN:2730-664X (Electronic)2730-664X (Linking)
Note:Publication type according to Uni Basel Research Database: Journal article
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Last Modified:27 Dec 2022 11:05
Deposited On:27 Dec 2022 11:05

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